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As the only MPA that includes both the Natal and Delagoa Bioregions, the iSimangaliso MPA provides protection to over 6,500 species including the southernmost corals on the east coast of Africa, humpback whales and whale sharks, coelacanths, leatherback and loggerhead turtles, and a vast array of other marine species. © WILDTRUST

Sustainably Financing South Africa’s MPA Network 

Sustainably Financing South Africa’s MPA Network 

Project Lead: WILDTRUST
Supporting Partners: ORRAA, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Local Traditional Authorities, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) 
Financial and Institutional Support: Blue Action Fund and the UK’s Blue Planet Fund
Location: South Africa


WILDTRUST is leading a consortium that brings together government, corporate and private sectors around a common goal of developing and sustainably financing an effective South African Marine Protected Area (MPA) network, with a focus on protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems in two South African MPAs: uThukela and iSimangaliso.  

MPAs are critical management tools that safeguard the coastal ecosystems and ocean natural capital, that many communities rely on for employment, food security and livelihoods. They allow ecosystems to endure, significantly contributing to biodiversity conservation and reducing climate change impacts while promoting the development of sustainable blue economies. For the project duration, partners and stakeholders are exploring MPA financing mechanisms within the South African context to increase MPA management capacity and knowledge, strengthen adaptive capacity, and sequester carbon while promoting climate-resilient and sustainable livelihoods. The focus on uThukela and iSimangaliso MPAs will provide a case study of using internationally relevant models that use Nature-based Solutions to improve sustainable livelihoods, food security, and resilience of vulnerable communities. 


South Africa approved 20 new and expanded MPAs in 2019, bringing the total number in the country’s mainland coastal zone to 41. This network covers 50,000 km2 or 5.4 per cent of South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, there is still much work to do for South Africa to work towards the target to protect 30 per cent of the Ocean by 2030 (known as the 30×30 goal). The National government has signaled a clear commitment to this target and has already embarked on a process to develop an Implementation Plan aimed at achieving 10 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030. To achieve this, significantly increased capacity and resources are needed. 


In May 2023 WILDTRUST together with ORRAA brought leading private finance and insurance sector partners, government and civil society representatives, multilateral organisations, and MPA management authorities for a workshop. The focus of the workshop was to identify sustainable finance solutions for uThukela and iSimangaliso MPAs, within the context of financing the 30×30 in South Africa’s waters. This was followed by a second 30×30 Implementation Workshop led by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), attended by government conservation entities and traditional leadership organisations, and supported by a collective of environmental NGOs. Parallel to this, ORRAA is supporting WILDTRUST to execute a baseline economic valuation of the ecosystems and natural assets in uThukela MPA to understand the financial value provided by the MPA. The workshop also identified the importance of conducting a financial assessment for each MPA to better understand the costs needed to effectively manage them.  

Scalability and Next Steps

Work is now underway to action the workstreams discussed during the initial workshops. This will include a 30×30 MPA expansion and financial funding needs assessment (including for iSimangaliso and uThukela MPAs), incubating sustainable financial mechanisms which match the MPA investment needs and timescales, and further workshops to develop practical steps to implement the most promising solutions.